Cork to keep its three European seats

Cork to keep its three European seats
Liadh Ni Riada looks set to retain her seat. Picture: Jim Coughlan.

CORK looks set to hold on to its three European Parliament seats, according to the latest Irish Times-Ipsos MRBI poll.

However, sitting Fine Gael MEP Deirdre Clune is in danger of finishing fifth and having to wait until the UK leaves the European Union to return to parliament.

The poll puts Sinn Féin’s Liadh Ní Riada in second place with 14% of the vote and Fianna Fáil TD Billy Kelleher just behind her at 13%.

That won’t be enough to reach the circa 17% quota on the first count, but enough for Ms Ní Riada to keep her seat and Mr Kelleher to take over from Brian Crowley as Cork’s Fianna Fáil MEP.

With Fine Gael MEP and former GAA boss Seán Kelly set to top the poll, Ms Clune is in joint fourth place with Fianna Fáil’s Malcolm Byrne at 10% and just a point ahead of her running mate Andrew Doyle TD.

Independent TD Mick Wallace is also competitive at 8%.

Ms Clune, however, is the most transfer-friendly of the candidates, according to the poll, which could keep her ahead as the count goes on.

With many of those preferences will be locked up with Mr Doyle — although some Fine Gael preferences will come from Mr Kelly’s small surplus — it could be a near-repeat of the 2014 count where she stayed just ahead of her running mate Simon Harris through the later count, although she finished behind him on first preferences.

An even split of Fine Gael first-preferences and a strong showing from either Mr Wallace or Mr Byrne could push her into the dreaded fifth seat, however.

That seat was added to the constituency after the UK voted to leave the EU and some of its seats were reassigned to remaining member states or left vacant for future expansion.

However, now that Brexit has been postponed, the UK is obliged to hold MEP elections this month and will be filling the seats itself.

That means that the fifth seat in Ireland South and the fourth seat in Dublin will be in limbo until the UK leaves, which could be as late as October this year, the next deadline for a deal.

The poll showed little support for independent candidates beyond Mr Wallace, with most polling at 1% or less.

Labour will also struggle to make a comeback, with Sheila Nunan at 5%, while it will be hard for 2014 Green Party candidate Grace O’Sullivan, now a senator, who also polled at 5%.

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